A bridge over the Tekeze River that’s crucial to delivering desperately needed food to much of Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region has been destroyed.

Members of Amhara special forces walk on the Tekeze river bridge near Ethiopia-Eritrean border near the town of Humera, Ethiopia.
Members of Amhara special forces walk on the Tekeze river bridge near Ethiopia-Eritrean border near the town of Humera, Ethiopia. (Reuters)

The UN's World Food Programme has resumed deliveries in the Ethiopia's Tigray region and expects to reach 40,000 hungry people in coming days.

Tommy Thompson, WFP emergency coordinator, speaking from Mekelle, told a UN briefing in Geneva on Thursday that fighting continued in some "hot zones", but that he was "cautiously optimistic" an air bridge could be set up in coming days to speed aid delivery.

Hi statement that came a day after bridge that’s crucial to delivering desperately needed food to much of Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region was earlier destroyed added that the WFP faces continuing access problems and is "way behind" in deliveries.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the former rulers in the area, said on Monday it was back in control of the regional capital Mekelle after nearly eight months of fighting.

The destruction of the bridge over the Tekeze River “means aid efforts will be even more severely hampered than before,“ the International Rescue Committee said in a statement on Thursday. Tigray has the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade, with the United States saying up to 900,000 people face famine conditions in a situation it calls “entirely man-made.”

It was not immediately clear who destroyed the bridge on a main supply route linking western Tigray, which is occupied by forces from the neighboring Amhara region, and the rest of Tigray.

Aid groups were looking into reports of other key bridges destroyed. Meanwhile, Ethiopia's government has prohibited aircraft to fly below 29,000 feet within the airspace over Tigray, according to a US Federal Aviation Administration notice posted Wednesday.

The bridge's destruction is “disastrous,” tweeted the administrator of the US Agency for International Development. There are just four main roads into the Tigray region of 6 millio n people and now only one “might be passable,” Samantha Power said, since one is blocked by Amhara forces and another by fighting.

France’s UN ambassador, Nicolas De Riviere, the current president of the UN Security Council, said the body would “most likely” hold an open meeting Friday afternoon on developments in Tigray that would include political and humanitarian briefings.

He said at a news conference that the council should again demand humanitarian access to Tigray and compliance by the parties with human rights, which have been violated during the conflict.

Humanitarian aid groups have been badly constrained in Tigray, with electricity and communications links still cut in the region.

The Tigray fighters, who had long dominated Ethiopia’s government and military before a falling-out with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, have demanded the return of services to the region as a condition of any peace negotiations.

In a recent case of blocking aid, a 29-truck convoy carrying World Food Program supplies was denied access and had to return to the Amhara region earlier this week, a UN humanitarian worker said. The worker spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The Tigray forces, emboldened after retaking the regional capital this week in a stunning turn in the eight-month war with Ethiopia’s military, have taken control of key towns this week, and several thousand of its fighters had been seen to be moving west.

The spokesman for the Tigray forces this week told The Associated Press they would “liberate” the region from “enemies” including the Ethiopian forces, Amhara forces and soldiers from neighboring Eritrea.

Source: AFP